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Full text of "My Country And My People"

136          MY    COUNTRY    AND    MY    PEOPLE

expensive wedding ceremonies of their daughters. In these
times many rulers and rich families had dancing girls in their
private households by the tens and hundreds, and the life of
licentious luxury and female entertainment was something that
would have satisfied a roue's dreams. Women, in short, had
become the playthings of men. Shih Ts'ung, who had dozens
of concubines, used to make them tread on a bed spread with
rare incense powder and those who were light enough to leave
no footprint on it would be rewarded with strings of pearl
necklaces, while those who did would be "put on the diet"
and instructed to reduce. Those pearl necklaces, rather than
Confucianism, were the cause of women's downfall in China
as in ancient Rome or modern New York. The situation was
therefore ripe for the institution of footbinding, which was the
last sophistication of male fancy.

Paradoxically, it was in this period that Chinese women were
known throughout for their jealousy, and henpecked officials
often appeared at court with bruised faces, resulting in punish-
ment of their jealous wives by royal decree. A certain Liu
Poyii used to recite the Ode to the Goddess of River Lo, and
once remarked with a sigh in his wife's hearing, "What a beauty
for a wife!" His wife said, "Why do you praise the Goddess of
River Lo and insult me? When I die, I will become a water
spirit/' That night she drowned herself in the river. Seven
days afterwards the wife appeared before Poyu in a dream and
said, "You wanted to marry a goddess, now I am a goddess."
For the rest of his life Liu Poyii never dared cross a stream.
Whenever women passed the river at this ferry, called the
"Ferry of the Jealous Woman" (in Shantung), they had to hide
or crumple their beautiful dresses and disfigure themselves,
otherwise a storm would come up. But if the women were ugly
the goddess was not jealous. And women who passed the ferry
without raising a storm thought they must be ugly themselves.

It is easy to see how women's jealousy grew with the system
of concubinage. It was their only weapon of defence. A
jealous wife could, by the sheer force of this instinct, prevent
her husband from having concubines, modern instances of
which can still be found. If man had sense enough to see that
marriage is woman's best and only profession he would be able